Words: Paul Miller & Andrew Simpson; Pictures: Andrew Simpson

Now in its third year, the Hi-Fi Show Live was expanded for 2015 by a further set of demonstration suites at the Beaumont Conference Centre in Old Windsor. UK enthusiasts were offered the unique opportunity to experience the cream of high-end audio. Exclusive UK product launches were unveiled by iconic brands including JBL, Magico, KEF, Quad, dCS, Audio Alchemy, GamuT, Audio Research, D’Agostino and many others. The big Windsor, Wessex, Lancaster and Buckingham Suites provided the ideal environment for many unforgettable demos while the numerous Hi-Fi News workshops were often left with standing room only. If you missed this unique high-end audio extravaganza, then here’s a taster of the event.

Assembled by Henley Designs, this smart little set-up comprised components from Pro-Ject’s compact Box Design series. Below the £2200 Xtension 9 Super Pack turntable can be seen the Stream Box RS (£1099), Phono Box RS (£649), Power Box RS power supply (£479), CD Box RS (£899), Amp Box RS (£749) and Pre Box RS Digital (£999).

Ian Severs of UK distributor Karma AV stands alongside JBL’s 4367 Studio Monitor, which was given a thorough workout before its anticipated 2016 launch. The substantial flagship in a series of three new models based on JBL’s pro M2 Master Reference Monitor, the 4367 features a 15in bass driver and a ‘High-Definition Imaging’ (horn) waveguide. Price will be around £11,500.

Chord Electronics demonstrated its new DAVE DAC (£7995), which runs custom code on an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) and boasts support for PCM, DXD and DSD inputs. Set in its own £1400 rack, the DAC fed a pair of the company’s SPM 1400 MKII amps. Chord’s pint-sized Mojo DAC/headphone amp (£399) could also be heard.

Magico’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, Peter Mackay, stands next to the S7, the flagship speaker in the company’s S-Series. Costing £58k+ depending on finish, each aluminium cabinet weighs 136kg and houses a trio of 10in bass drivers, a 6in midrange and 1in tweeter. The sound of the S7 was breathtaking driven by Constellation Audio’s 500W Hercules II stereo power amp or 250W Centaur II monoblocks.
www.constellationaudio.com; www.magico.net

Jozefina Lichtenegger of EAT unveiled a 12in version of the company’s C-Note hybrid/unipivot tonearm with carbon tube, fitted to a Forte S turntable with a glorious Makassar finish. From PrimaLuna came a £2998 HP (high-power) variant of its Dialogue Premium integrated valve amp boasting twice as many tubes as the original, plus auto-biasing.
www.europeanaudioteam.com; www.primaluna-usa.com

IAG representative and prolific speaker designer Peter Comeau was on hand to sate the appetites of Quad fans eager to hear the company’s new Z-4 floorstander. As the largest model in the Z series, this £4k tower with its four-driver-and-ribbon-tweeter array certainly held its own against Quad’s own ESL-2912 electrostatics, both models (pictured) enthralling audiences in equal measure.

KEF demonstrated a revamped version of its iconic Muon flagship speaker to a packed house. Seen below with Jack Oclee-Brown, Head of Acoustics at the company, the £140k Muon has a revised Uni-Q mid/treble array with stiffened drivers and a new crossover said to give deeper bass. KEF’s £16k+ Blade Two [see HFN Jul ’15] was also on show next to the original Blade, highlighting their shared striking aesthetic and the former’s more manageable size.

Few experiences can match that of hearing Frank Zappa sing from the grooves of an LP spun on the £14,000 Kronos Sparta .5 turntable with its accompanying 10in Helena dual-wall carbon fibre tonearm (£6500). The package also hosted a prototype Van den Hul Crimson ‘Stradivari’ pick-up, built especially for the show.

Oppo came clutching its EISA Award-winning headphones and accompanying DACs/headphone amps. The UK division’s Shane Cui (left) and James Soanes flank new-look versions of the entry level PM-3 headphones in eye-catching red or blue livery, priced £349 apiece. Serving up the sounds is Oppo’s £249 pocket-sized leather-clad HA-2 amp [see HFN Jun ’15].

The ebullient Peter Madnick of Audio Alchemy (left) joined Nigel Crump of Symmetry Systems to unveil his very latest designs, including a Class D amp. Top left on the rack can be seen the new DDP-1 Digital Decoding DAC, which packs a preamp with a headphone output into a cute case for £1595, while alongside sits its optional £495 PS-5 power supply.

With a price tag of £90k, you can understand why Clearaudio’s Veronika and Robert Suchy are standing guard around their flagship Statement TT1 V2 turntable, which came with a number of revisions including a new bearing design for its parallel-tracking arm. The radical tech of DS Audio’s DS-W1 optical cartridge [HFN Nov ’15] also wowed the crowds.

This system from Midlands-based distributor Kog Audio created some of the most natural-sounding music at the show, thanks to Avalon’s Transcendent loudspeakers (£16,500) and dCS electronics, including a dCS Rossini Player (£18k) and Rossini DSD-upsampling DAC (£5k). Completing the set-up were VTL amps, Aurender and Melco servers, and supports and accessories from Entreq.

The Leema Acoustics team (l-r) Nia Davies, Lee Taylor, Mallory Nicholls and Mark Perfect, hold billets of aluminium as used in the cabinets of the company’s £3k Xen Elite micro monitors. With its 4in bass cone and 1in tweeter, the speaker brought smiles as it drove the room, hooked up to Leema’s Constellation electronics.

As the designer of one of the most talked about standmount speakers at the show, ELAC’s Andrew Jones has every right to look so pleased with himself. The company chose the Hi-Fi Show Live to launch its Debut speaker range in the UK, and there was nothing entry-level about the sound of its most affordable B5 model (£250), which was fed by electronics from Audio Alchemy.

The Master Power Classic Stereo power amp from Dan D’Agostino is priced at £13,500 and, cosmetically at least, is reminiscent of the amps designed during his early years at Krell. But with 300W/8ohm on tap, it’s way more powerful than a KSA-50! Also on show was D’Agostino’s MLife one-box player with built-in display and streamer.

Here’s Daniel Marchant of Yamaha UK tickling the ivories of a Yamaha Disklavier Piano, ensuring the Hi-Fi Show Live lived up to its name. Yamaha also entertained guests with its £1600 YSP-5600 Dolby Atmos soundbar and latest MusicCast systems, alongside its flagship £4k A-S3000 amp.

No soldering iron in sight as Atlas Cables’ Engineering Technician Bryan McFarland demonstrated the company’s new Transpose cold-solder connections on its Mavros speaker cable. These terminations feature top-quality quick-swap interchangeable banana and spade connectors.

Throughout the weekend, the show also hosted a range of workshops. Here’s IsoTek System’s Bjørn Hegelstad discussing and demonstrating the benefits of ‘clean power’ using IsoTek’s EVO3 Aquarius six-way mains conditioner and its EVO3 Polaris distribution strip.

G Point Audio showed the GL-1102N deck from Polish brand Pre-Audio. It wasn’t just the tangential arm that had the crowds talking but the acrylic platter with its internal light show. Seen here with an Ortofon MC2000 II MC, the €5812 package normally includes a Benz Micro Gold pick-up.

NuNu Distribution certainly put Oracle Audio’s latest Delphi Mk VI Gen II (£9950) turntable to good use. With an SME V arm and partnered with the £1650 Oracle PH200 phono stage, it sounded sublime heard through TAD Labs’ CE1 (£16k) three-way reflex-loaded standmount speakers [HFN Jan ’15].

Simon Griffin of Decent Audio shows off Magnepan’s new two-way MG .7 panels, designed with smaller spaces in mind. Standing 1.38m tall, the £1690 MG .7is said to have a sensitivity of 86dB and nominal impedance of 4ohm.

Requests for cable demonstrations were in high demand and Nigel Finn, The Chord Company’s Technical Director, was on hand to show eager visitors how its new Sarum Super ARAY range offers a welcome upgrade path from the company’s Sarum Tuned ARAY predecessor.

Tube amp fans made a beeline for Icon Audio’s room where the company’s David Shaw demo’d his new ‘pure triode’ EL34D valves alongside a prototype of his new Stereo 30SE single-ended integrated amp, expected to cost £1600.

In one of its two Hi-Fi Show Live rooms, Kevin Akam (pictured) of Signature Audio Systems joined DALI to deliver music on an epic scale. This front-end comprises PS Audio’s PerfectWave Transport (£3k) and DSD-upsampling DirectStream DAC (£5350) feeding a choice of Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 integrated amp or Corus/625 S2 pre/power amps. Speakers were DALI Epicon 8 (£11,500).
www.signaturesystems.co.uk; www.dali-uk.co.uk

Northamptonshire-based Divine Audio greeted visitors with a line-up of the latest turntables from AudioWorks. This beauty is the Turntable One with black oak plinth in extended 12in guise (£2k), equipped with an SME M2-12tonearm and AT33Sa MC pick-up from A-T. Note the platter’s belt drive controlled by a standalone AC motor, situated at the rear of the plinth.

Pure Sound presented this stunning set-up, which included an STST Motus II direct-drive turntable [HFN Jan ’14] and Pure Sound 2A3 integrated amp [HFN May ’10]. The gorgeous retro-looking speakers are HECO’s new Direkt model (£2500), which boast a 10in woofer, horn-loaded tweeter and a claimed sensitivity of 95dB.

For those looking to stock up on quality music, Chris Harris of Theme One Records came armed with a selection of the best new and used pressings. With a vast selection of titles on offer, including recordings from the specialist label Music On Vinyl alongside award-winning Chesky CDs, there was something to interest every audiophile.

Those looking to get the best out of a bedroom or second system were just as well served thanks to Dave Jackson of High End Cable, who ran two desktop set-ups to demonstrate audio delights intended for smaller spaces. Both used Audience speakers, including the larger 1+1 V2 (pictured) with side-firing ABRs and front/rear full-range titanium drivers.

Ming Da UK’s Mark Manwaring-White, pictured here wearing a digital bow-tie, demo’d this fascinating set-up, which included a Pre-Audio 1301G deck with parallel-tracking arm and Audio Detail Nuvistor phono stage with matching NV-06 power supply. Speakers are hORNS Mummy with 12in woofer and horn-loaded tweeter.

Computer Audio Design, which is led by Scott Berry (pictured), joined forces for the show with Soundkaos speakers. Alongside its 1543 DAC MkII (£7250) and CAT transport/streamer/NAS (£6300), CAD also revealed its soon-to-be released ‘Ground Control’ HF noise filter. The Wave 40 speakers seen here boast an upgraded external crossover. Also, spot the side-exiting horn/transmission-line port.

Presented by Henley Designs, Pro-Ject’s Signature deck was a sight to behold. Costing £7000 and currently the company’s flagship turntable, it features a mass-loaded plinth, magnetically decoupled main platter, flywheel belt drive, digital speed display and 12in unipivot tonearm. During the show, Pro-Ject founder Heinz Lichtenegger was on hand to share insights into the deck’s design with eager visitors.

Primare’s Siemen Algra gets up close to some of the company’s cool-running UFPD (Ultra Fast Power Device) equipped Class D electronics. Below a BD32 universal player sits an I32 integrated amp with optional streamer and aptX Bluetooth modules. On the bottom two shelves reside the flagship two-tone PRE60/A60 pre/power amps [HFN Nov ’14].

This photo doesn’t do the superb build quality of T+A’s HV range justice. Seen here with T+A’s Jens Welteke (left) and Oliver John are the PDP 3000 HV CD/SACD player/DAC (£11.7k) [HFN Mar ’15], PA 3000 HV amp (£10.2k) and MP 3000 HV media player (£8.3k), alongside the unmistakable curves of Estelon’s XB speakers (£22k) with their ceramic drivers.

Fresh from a workshop presenting AudioQuest’s JitterBug USB conditioner via Kudos’s Titan 808 speakers with Linn Exakt active electronics, Matthias Böde of Stereo magazine strikes a pose in front of the Kudos team and AudioQuest’s Robert Hay (centre). The workshop explored the improvements the £39 JitterBug’s RF filtering can bring to computer audio [HFN Oct ’15].
www.kudosaudio.com; www.audioquest.com

Standing before a huge mural of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page in one of the show’s most elaborate rooms, Dynaudio’s Roland Hoffmann (left) and Matthias Böde of Stereo magazine take a break from a workshop on speaker positioning that used Dynaudio’s Contour S 3.4 LE (£4750).

Electronics guru Graham Tricker of GT Audio added a vintage touch to his handbuilt TRON electronics using this Studer reel-to-reel recorder, parked next to a TW Acustic Raven deck, which was heard through the new TRON Convergence MC phono stage (£1k) and 50W Class AB monoblocks (£3k/pair). During the show, Mike Valentine of Chasing the Dragon Records gave regular talks on direct-cut LPs.

Personal audio was high on the agenda with a wide selection of quality cans on offer for visitors to test in the headphone zone. Harman Consumer UK’s Mark Hockey showed off models from AKG, including the new Y50BT on-ear model with TrueStream Bluetooth technolpgy (£149), alongside the Quincy Jones-inspired N90Q flagship design (£1300).

Either side of this rack of PS Audio electronics sits a pair of the company’s latest BHK Signature 300 monoblocks (£13k/pair), designed by Bascom H King and said to deliver 300W/8ohm. On the rack’s bottom shelf is a PerfectWave P10 Power Plant AC mains regenerator (£4.5k), here feeding a DirectStream DAC and PerfectWave transport.

David Brooks of Mains Cables R Us was in attendance with a veritable Aladdin’s cave full of system essentials and audio accessories, many offered at special show prices even the most pound-conscious of audiophiles found hard to resist. Furutech, Okki Nokki and MrSpeakers were just some of the many and varied brands on offer.